Marks & Spencer missed out on the general retail sector’s rise after its much-anticipated investor day was judged insufficiently exciting by the City.
An army of analysts turned up to hear strategy presentations from Marks & Spencer’s top brass in what was also regarded as a beauty parade of internal candidates to succeed Sir Stuart Rose as chief executive. However, many came away with mixed feelings.
UBS said: “Although there was an understandable degree of enthusiasm going into the first M&S strategy update for eight years, the key takeaway of £150m net cost savings by 2015/16 was less material than expected.”
Singer noted: “Observers hoping for a silver bullet would have been disappointed. This is about the long-term benefits of improving core infrastructure.
“Whether or not the day was aimed at drawing out the next chief executive is unclear. Both Ian Dyson and John Dixon appeared driven, but the role is not guaranteed to go to an insider. The change programme is a must if M&S is to compete further down the line.”
The BRC September sales data showing an encouraging uplift should be “taken with a pinch of salt”, cautioned Investec. The broker said the rise was inflated by the inclusion of the bank holiday weekend and maintained: “Despite some revival in lower-ticket consumer discretionary spending, consumers remain reluctant to purchase higher-ticket items at full price.”
Citi said: “With the non-food like-for-like comparative fading progressively for the final three months of the year, we continue to argue that soft comparatives will support
current like-for-like trends.”
Sainsbury’s emerged as a “laggard” from the latest TNS grocery market data, Jefferies said, while Tesco made up some ground. The broker said: “Greater customer stickiness at Tesco is likely to have been the key for a more modest performance by Sainsbury’s in September.”
Buy N Brown, advised KBC Peel Hunt following Wednesday’s interim profit rise. The broker said: “N Brown offers ongoing growth in the UK from new brands and good mail order/online execution, while we look for international opportunities to provide medium-term earnings enhancement.”
JJB Sports shrugged off renewed controversy to get a £100m fundraising under way and its shares rose. Seymour Pierce rated JJB a sell and warned of “considerable uncertainty at this stage of
Oriel reiterated its buy recommendation on Kingfisher after a rent reduction deal on some B&Q stores, saying: “This move cements the strategy to reduce the operating cost line by about 150 basis points over the three-year strategy period.”